City Living – Where is Your Second Home?

The Delhi walla‘s pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls – Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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City Watch - Where is Your Second Home?

Seeking private spaces in public places.

[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The aftermath of Bombay terrorist attack revealed something curious. The destruction of a public place was mourned as the loss of a private space. I’m talking about Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel.

“Taj was my second home,” wailed many a Bombay Walla. To them, the lobby was their drawing room and the hotel, a home.

What about Delhi? Which public sanctuaries here have grown so endearing to people, over the years, that they feel as if they possess them like their own home? Which enclaves here are marked as private properties in the emotional maps of the city’s residents?

The first person I talked to was Mr William Dalrymple. He confesses of ‘owning’ other homes in Delhi beside a farmhouse. “My two second homes are the Mehrauli Archeological Park around Jamali Kamali and the Safdarjung’s Tomb,” says the author of the City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi. “Both these places are my favorite venues during the winter for dog-walks and picnics.”

Ruins don’t click with all. “To me, Khan Market is also a private space since it is one of my chief comfort zone beside my Mayur Vihar apartment,” says Ms Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, Editorial Manager, Journals, South Asia, Routledge, Taylor and Francis. “I’m familiar with that market’s landscape, its bookshops and its retailers.”

American artist Mr Alexander Keefe, who lives in a south Delhi barsati, too, has his second home, in a market — Sagar restaurant in Defence Colony.

“Unpretentious, old-fashioned and authentic,” says Mr Keefe of his ‘home’. “I always read my newspaper at the Sagar.” But Mr Keefe feels that this privately owned eatery is not accessible to all. “Those who consider luxury hotels as public spheres are sort of folk who go to uppity galas and exclaim, ‘Everyone is here’.”

Everyone also goes to Qutub Minar. Perhaps, not many are able to relate to it as intimately as a Pakistani diplomat who talked on the condition of anonymity due to protocol obligations. “I feel close to the structure and imagine it in its days of glory when it was a part of everyday life,” he says.

The diplomat who lives in Shanti Niketan has a reason to be envious of thumri singer Ms Vidya Rao. She wakes up each morning, to a window view of Qutub Minar, in her Mehrauli apartment.

However, her ‘second home’ falls inside India International Center (IIC) where she is a member for 16 years. “The attentive staff, the cultural events, the quiet corners and the next-door Lodhi Garden there make me relaxed,” Ms Rao says. “Besides, IIC’s library have these lovely cubicles where you feel as if you are in your own study.”

Does abandoned tombs, restricted-access restaurants and partitioned cubicles constitute home?

“There is a notion of exclusivity around such places and so people find it as special as their own house,” says Dr Deepak Mehta, Reader in department of sociology, Delhi University. “Parks, bars, clubs also tend to become ‘second homes’ because they often are refuges from the drudgery of home.”

What about those who forever feel homeless? “Post Bombay attacks, even my own home in Vikram Nagar feels unsafe,” says DJ Iggy who performs at Magique, in the Garden of Five Senses. “Anything can happen anytime, anywhere.” Just as it happened at the Taj.